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Greg Davies on 'The Cleaner': 'I didn't want to play a middle-aged dad!'

Greg Davies plays Wicky in The Cleaner
Greg Davies plays Wicky in The Cleaner. (Image credit: BBC)

Greg Davies is best known for being TV’s favourite Taskmaster. And now he has a major job on his hands in his new BBC1 comedy, The Cleaner.

The six-part series - which Greg also writes - sees him play Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead, an ordinary guy who has the unusual but essential job of cleaning up crime scenes. Armed with chemicals, scrubbing brushes, and dressed in full hazmat gear, Wicky enters the homes of random strangers to remove any signs of death - and often ends up providing a solution for more than just bloodstains!

Greg - also known for playing Mr Gilbert in The Inbetweeners and frustrated teacher Dan in Man Down - has certainly cleaned up when it comes to guest stars for this show, with this week’s first episode featuring acting royalty Helena Bonham Carter, as you’ve NEVER seen her before!

In an exclusive interview with whattowatch.com, Greg, 53, talks worst jobs and surprise encounters...

So how did The Cleaner come about?

"Well, I told the head of BBC comedy that I didn't want to play another middle-aged dad and he said, ‘I've got this strange German show called Der Tatortreiniger that I think you'll like’. So I watched the original, loved it, and thought I’d have a go at adapting it. I’d say this show is heavily influenced by the original as a starting point but then I hope we've created our own version of it."

So how would you describe your character Wicky? 

"Wicky is a very straightforward man who’s somewhat lacking in ambition. He’s had the same group of friends for a long time and is very much a creature of habit. He’d probably just be in the pub every night but, because he’s got this job as a crime scene cleaner, he gets to meet different people each week and nose around their bizarre lives. Wicky’s really an ordinary man with an extraordinary job."

Greg Davies as Wicky in The Cleaner

Wicky meets some weird and wonderful characters as he goes about his job as a crime-scene cleaner. (Image credit: BBC)

As writer, what did you want to say with each of these stories?

"Well, all the stories are so different, with Wicky going on a completely different adventure from the week before with characters he has nothing in common with. What I love about the show is the human element; each week the viewers will meet a new human and get to delve around in their life for half an hour… and wonder how Wicky will react!" 

Talk us through some of the guest stars across the series…

"The first episode sees Helena Bonham Carter sat on a toilet singing and it’s hilarious. Once I was over being starstruck, I had a great time with her. Her character is a woman who’s lived a fairly dull life and all of her excitement is crammed into this one day. In another episode, David Mitchell plays a VERY angry writer - in real life he’s an absolute charmer."

Greg Davies Helena Bonham Carter The Cleaner

When Wicky met Sheila: Helena Bonham Carter's character has blood on her hands. (Image credit: BBC)

Have you ever done any horrible jobs? And do you miss teaching [Greg was a secondary school teacher before going into comedy]?

"One summer, I worked as a peat cutter. It was an awful, backbreaking, antiquated job chopping up peat for people's gardens. I hated it! With teaching, I always thought the kids were great and most of my best friends are people I met during those teaching years, so it was an important part of my life. But do I miss it? No, I do not!"

Do you prefer playing characters in comedy shows like The Cleaner or fronting quizzes like Taskmaster?

"It's such a cop-out answer but I honestly love all of it. I never thought I’d get to do comedy and try and make people laugh. I love all the TV work I'm doing but it means I can’t do stand-up - that was my way into this showbiz world and I really miss it. I hope that, as soon as there's a window of time, I'll get back out on the road."

Greg Davies on Taskmaster

Greg Davies is best known for hosting panel show Taskmaster. (Image credit: UKTV)

What do people tend to recognise you for out and about?

"For a long time it was only The Inbetweeners and people shouting ‘Gilbert’ at me in the street, which I still find quite funny. Some people love Taskmaster, for others it’ll be Man Down or 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. I don't think I've ever had one negative encounter but people are always shocked at how tall I am. I think my height is fairly well documented but they're always surprised to discover I wasn't lying!"

The Cleaner starts on Friday September 10 at 9pm on BBC1.